Cessna 310 Pilot Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter

Deal rules out jail time.

A New Hampshire man who crashed his Cessna 310 on New Year’s Day in 2011, killing his daughter, will never get his pilot’s certificate back but avoided serving jail time after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

The judge in the case accepted a plea agreement reached between the defense and prosecution and sentenced Steven Fay, 58, of Hillsborough, New Hampshire, to a year of probation.

Fay, who held only a single-engine private pilot certificate, was at the controls of his 1961 Cessna 310F twin when it crashed a quarter mile short of Runway 19 at Orange Municipal Airport (ORE) in Orange, Massachusetts. He had taken off from Keene, New Hampshire, late in the afternoon on New Year’s Day and headed to KORE to practice touch-and-go landings with his 35-year-old daughter on board.

The FAA suspended Fay’s pilot certificate soon after the accident. Before the crash, Fay had been training for his multi-engine rating, although his flight instructor expressly prohibited him from flying his airplane alone.

The NTSB blamed the crash on pilot error, saying Fay failed to maintain separation from trees during the landing. Contributing to the accident were Fay’s inadequate preflight planning and lack of night flight experience, the NTSB found.

Prosecutors charged Fay with "unintentionally and unlawfully" causing his daughter's death by means of "wanton or reckless conduct," a crime that carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The judge in the case ordered that Fay be placed on unsupervised probation until Dec. 31, 2013, with the special conditions that he is prohibited from operating any aircraft, cannot seek reinstatement of his pilot's certificate and must pay $2,300 restitution to the victim's mother.